One of the cool new features of Mac OS X Leopard is Time Machine, a really simple backup solution for Mac OS X that not only transparently backs up your data, but also does so with an amazingly ugly GUI that lets you quickly jump back to the way that your documents were at any given point in the past. Unfortunately, Time Machine doesn’t run on my Linux boxes, so I’m forced to come up with an alternative.

The good news is that getting a 90% solution is ridiculously easy. On the back-end, all that Time Machine does is create a collection of hard links from one backup set to another. Here’s the bare minimum of a shell script that will back up the last three editions of your home folder to an external drive:

rm -fvr "${DEST}.3"
mv "${DEST}.2" "${DEST}.3"
mv "${DEST}.1" "${DEST}.2"
mv "${DEST}.0" "${DEST}.1"
rsync -av --exclude-from='backup-excludes' --link-dest="${DEST}.1" "${SOURCE}/" "${DEST}.0/"

You’ll obviously need to modify the SOURCE and DEST variables to be something appropriate for your computer. You’ll also need to create a file in your home directory called backup-excludes that’ll look something like this:


Add and modify the glob patterns so that it contains a list of things that should be skipped. Now, just make sure your external drive is plugged in, run the script, and presto! Instant backup. Quick and dirty, but gets the job done.